Sticking up for brands and reputation
An interesting thought for this hot summer day while supposedly chillin’ on vacation. I was reading through some of Andrew Hill’s articles in the Financial Times and landed on this one because of its close association with reputation. After reviewing a recent brand ranking that came out, Hill says that he expects more ups and downs in brand ratings in the near future compared to the recent past where companies were mostly concerned about survival as the global recession hurt nearly everyone. When it comes to reputation, I have to chime in and say that the entire past decade has been one big volatility cycle, starting with Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and it only got worse. Sector by sector fell down and have been killing themselves to climb out of a monstrous hole of distrust and uncertainty. It’s been a bloodbath.
Hill makes a good point when he reminds us that in the future “companies will place greater emphasis on how to make customers – and non-customers – trust their overall brand and speak up for it, to mitigate the risk of infidelity.” This is where social media comes in and all the new intermediaries that customers are channeling with recommendations on Amazon, Yelp, Google, Twitter, Pinterest and so forth. These are perhaps the newest of new stakeholders, almost like a Seventh Estate.
And let’s not bypass employees which Hill did not mention. Customers are indeed important to brands but employees are a whole other segment that can speak up and stick up for brands. They can help inoculate a brand or reputation and they are supremely trusted. Don’t forget to read our survey on employee activists which lays out this whole new activist segment that can be mobilized on corporate reputations’ behalf.
I agree with Andrew Hill that brand (or in my case, reputation) is a discipline that will never again “be a low-priority ‘afterthought’ for their bosses.” Our work is cut out for us because as I see it, the volatility ain’t nothing yet. There’s a firestorm ahead.